Upgrading a Windows 10 notebook with low storage space

I recently attended an interesting trouble call, about an upgrade problem of Windows 10.

The customer had a Lenovo notebook with only a 32GB hard drive installed. This in itself, is not problem. However, after having the Windows 10 OS and a few other programmes installed, the hard drive has only 5GB of space left!

The Windows 10 upgrade needed at least 16GB of hard drive space for the 32bit installation and 20GB for the 64bit installation. This space is needed during the upgrade process for the Windows.old folder and other “temp” files. Consequently the customer was seeing “low disk space” errors and the upgrade would fail. Seeing as the upgrade used about 3GB of data, this was a waste of the customer’s precious metered data!

Despite running the “Disk Cleanup” tool along with the “Clean up System Files” option, not enough hard disk storage space could be reclaimed.

The notebook was currently on the original (now obsolete) version of Windows 10 (1507) and Microsoft was trying to push the upgrade to the latest Windows 10 Creators version 1703.

I saw that after trying to download the upgrade file, you are told you need more space and given an option to plug in a drive with more than 16GB space (must be NTFS formatted). Despite doing this, the upgrade still failed. The drive must NTFS formatted in case Windows has to create a single file larger than 4GB.

I was able to resolve this dilemma by installing the “Windows Media Creation tool” on to my computer. I then chose to download the USB flash drive installation media. In the next stage of the process, I had to untick a box because it wanted to offer me the version for my 64 bit Windows 10 Pro computer whereas the customer’s notebook OS was the Windows 10 Home Single Language 32 bit version .

After creating the USB installation media, I plugged it into her notebook. Please note that you MUST do this process, whilst the computer is booted up to avoid any problems. I then clicked the setup.exe file contained on the USB stick.  Now here’s the trick. I plugged a SECOND USB key with 16GB into the notebook! This key must also be NTFS formatted because if any file that is created is more than 4GB is size, the install would fail. During the upgrade process, I was told that there wasn’t enough storage space on the C: drive, but I was now offered the chance to choose the second USB stick as the temporary storage medium.

After doing this, the upgrade process worked!

There is one more step still to do, so DON’T unplug the two USB sticks just yet!

Finally I launched the “disk cleanup” app on her notebook and choose the “Clean up System Files” option which let up remove all the temp files on her notebook and the still plugged in USB sticks.

Lastly, you can now go ahead and perform the normal Microsoft updates.

The next time that a new Windows 10 version is made available, such as the Creators Fall update version 1709 in October 2017 or version 1803 in early 2018, this process will have to be repeated!